“Memorize This, Ya Bam…”

I pretty much forget or misplace my bus pass, hearing aid and/or glasses on a daily basis. If I don’t do things immediately, or make some sort of very obvious note reminder of them, then I am sure to forget to do so 3 minutes after it occurred to me.

In my job, however, I expect my older pupils to revise and remember great chunks of information – some of it directly quoted from a literary text. Information that will help them in the appropriate English exam paper. Information that they then have to pick through and put down on paper in a properly relevant and structured form. In 90 minutes. Under exam pressure.

This exercise will be replicated in some way in almost every other exam that they sit.

I haven’t done the same myself in 27 years. I teach broadly the same texts over and over, but if you were to ask me to quote accurately from any of them, I would be struggling.

But I expect this generation to do so: a generation who can find the answer (correctly or incorrectly) to any question that they need by typing it into their phones. Or tablets. Or laptops.

As a “wheat from chaff” measure, I suppose it makes sense. But it heavily rewards memory. Even if a student has studied and studied, revised and revised, the entire course of their future school career or life is dependent on what they have succeeded in holding onto the moment that they walk into the exam room.

And, as said, this is a generation who need to retain very little of what they have read in their every day lives.

I can’t help but feel that the exam system needs to change to accommodate and test the skills that are most useful in the students’ lives. The skills of finding, analysing critically, and using the information they are given via a blue screen. The skills of recognising credible sources. The skills of identifying what they are being sold, and how it is being sold to them.

Memory, after all, is a faulty tool.

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About Speff

Scottish; pro-independence; a veteran teacher; a fairly new mum; facing the menopause and gradual deafness. So - here to grump a lot. And occasionally post about food and sci-fi.
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